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Your Private Data is Unforgettable

Remembering and forgetting: current computing systems "remember" everything

On June 14th I attended the Israeli Wikipedia Academy 2010 conference in Tel-Aviv University. The interesting conference focused on Wikipedia and Wiki technology usage in Academic context and schools.

Most of the presentations focused on Wiki or Wikipedia research, usage and projects. The main theme repeating in most presentations was that Wiki based Collaboration and Participation changes the Game's Rules. However, in some contexts changing the rules is very useful, while in other contexts the usefulness is questionable. Changing the rules implies new challenges to all process participants such as Users, Content Creators, Managers, Auditors etc.

I already described these challenges in previous posts: Wikipedia the Good the Bad and the Ugly and Web 2.0 for Dummies – Part 7: Wikipedia.

A Keynote Presentation on Remembering and Forgetting
In my opinion, the Keynote by Prof. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger was the most interesting. Prof. Mayer-Schönberger is the Director of the Information and Innovation Policy Research Center at the National University of Singapore. His presentation titled: Remembering and Forgetting, looked beyond Wikipedia perspective.

We already know that human beings do not remember everything: They forget.

As a student of Psychology in the 1970s I studied a research by George A. Miller titled: The Magical Number 7 plus minus two.

The experiment he performed proved that Human's Short Term Memory's capacity is about 7 items. It is true, that Long Term Memory Capacity is less limited, but human beings are not capable of remembering everything.

There are some exceptions to that rule. The Argentinean writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges, describes in one of his stories a man who remembers everything.

When that man was asked to tell about an event which happened to him, he describes every detail so the description is virtually another occurrence of the event. For example, describing a one hour event takes exactly one hour.

From the short reference to the story written by Borges it is clear, that remembering everything is a barrier for human happiness and adaptation.

According to Prof Mayer-Schönberger current computing systems "remember" everything. Like human unlimited memory, computing systems unlimited remembering is not a recipe for happiness.

Read more http://avirosenthal.blogspot.com/2010/06/your-private-data-is-unforgettable.html

More Stories By Avi Rosenthal

Ari has over 30 years of experience in IT across a wide variety of technology platforms, including application development, technology selection, application and infrastructure strategies, system design, middleware and transaction management technologies and security.

Positions held include CTO for one of the largest software houses in Israel as well as the CTO position for one of the largest ministries of the Israeli government.

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